After roughly two years, Senators have finally received the first draft of the Senate Inquiry into the Immigration and Nationality Department. The results of the inquiry were one of the six demands that the National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB) had put forth. At a meeting between the NTUCB and the Prime Minister, the PM stated that Senator Aldo Salazar had told him that he was abandoned during the process of compiling the report. He specifically pointed out that Senator Elena Smith had not done her part. Today, Smith called out government officials on mistruths told about her. Smith headed a press conference this morning at their headquarters where she spoke on the Prime Minister’s response to the absence of a report from the Senate Inquiry.
Elena Smith, Senator: “A lawyer told another lawyer that the report wasn’t ready because I did not do my part in preparing the report and I think as you said we’ve all said Senator Salazar saying to the media that he’s working on it, his personal and professional duties have caused him not to be able to complete it on time but he knows it’s his responsibility and he will finish when he can and so for me to be blamed for not having a report is really beyond me. We also as the Senate Select Committee we also have an attorney that was hired to work with us and assist the chairman in putting that report together so the portion of the report that dealt with the summary of hearings those were sent to us earlier, those were dealt with. The other part which would have the recommendations those were not shared with us and so we could not comment so I don’t know how we got from the Chairman being responsible to Senator Smith not taking up her responsibilities or they tried to reach her and couldn’t find her. I don’t know if I was living somewhere else. How many times have we been asking him for the report and he keeps saying again ‘My personal-“
Elena Smith, Senator: “Aha that was the word thank you and his professional kept him from doing so. So what are those ? Aren’t those excuses? Whether they are valid or not they are excuses.”
Mark Lizarraga, Senator: “Interestingly enough yesterday we received the first draft of the report from Senator Aldo Salazar. I was copied on it as were you [Senator Elena Smith] and it’s interesting to note that the opposition was not copied on that email and I found it to be very strange and the games continue.”
We asked Senator Smith about being singled out in NTUCB’s meeting with the Prime Minister. She stated that she believes that it was related to the part that the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) played in the NTUCB’s demonstration last week.
Elena Smith, Senator: “If you want to diminish support all you have to do is find the leader and attack the leader because when you do that then you know that the way we behave that persons would tend to believe anything that their party says and so they would automatically believe what the Prime Minister said and he said what he was told. According to the meeting he said what he was told. So I know that on Thursday we had, as I said before, thirty buses coming in, we had a boat coming from San Pedro, we had four hundred teachers from Belize City. BNTU had two thousand or more teachers out there on Thursday, we had the biggest showing and so for this to not go further I suppose you then discredit the person or the leader with the most support.”
Smith went on to speak on the Prime Minister’s response on having the majority on the Integrity Commission and the Public Accounts Committee. In his response the PM noted that he is a firm believer in majoritarian democracy and opposes any dilution of that principle. Also speaking on the issue was Senator Mark Lizarraga.
Elena Smith, Senator: “We certainly don’t. From the time we put the position out that we wanted it to be changed, the composition to be changed it meant that we don’t agree because we feel that not because you have majority in government you must be majority on these boards because these committees are very important, they play an important role and these committees should be independent so that they can carry out the work that they ought to be carrying out the work that they ought to be carrying out and if is that you want to have majority then these committees will not be independent. Obviously they are going to be working to suit whoever is in power and if we continue that way then we will forever be where we are, we won’t have any changes, we won’t be seeing the things that need to be done to make the changes to this system that we complain about so much. So we don’t believe in that principle. We believe that it should be independent committees to go ahead and do the work.”
Mark Lizarraga, Senator: “I think the social partners have had a lot of history when it comes to this particular matter. We don’t believe in the principle that you should police yourself and that in effect is what we have today and the government refuses to move from that, they’re very guarded in that regard they don’t want oversight, they don’t want independent accountability, they don’t want to be transparent in a lot of things that they do especially when it comes to those oversight mechanisms that speak to government spending and borrowing. So the entities that we represent have been on record for a long time saying that we opposed that policy that the government has and we think the system is broken and it needs to be fixed. So we have been lobbying for this for a long time as a matter of fact the business community was promised in the last round of negotiations that the composition would have been changed and that has not come to fruition.”